“The Country is broke because the System is Fixed”

Moyers & Company 108: Encore: On Winner Take All Politics from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

    • why did they do it?

    • Jacob and I genuinely believe that it’s an optimistic story compared with the story that we’re typically told about what’s been happening to the American economy. Because what we’re typically told is there’s nothing you can do about this, that it’s just an economic reality, there’s no point in blaming any political party.

    • But the real action is inside the top one percent. If you go to the top tenth of one percent or the top hundredth of one percent, you know, you would need a much bigger graph to show what’s happening to incomes for that for that more select group. Because they’ve gone up much faster than have incomes for just your average top one percent kind of person.

    • PAUL PIERSON: In some ways, the fundamental myth that we’re trying to break out of is the idea that there’s something natural out there called "the American economy" that is prior to government, prior to politics. And that government, if it’s involved at all, is only involved sort of at the end of the day, maybe tidying things up around the edges, or redistributing money from some people to another.

    • the richest one-in-a-thousand households are truly living in an unparalleled age

    • BILL MOYERS: Well, as you speak, I can hear all of those free-marketers out they say, "Come on, Piers– come on Hacker it is the global economy. It’s that cheap labor overseas. It’s those high technology skills that you say are required, these deep forces that actually are beyond our control, and are making inevitable this division between the top and everyone else." Right? That’s what they’re saying as they listen to you right now.

    • When you start to look within the top one percent, and look at what government has done to help those people out, through taxes, through changes in the market, financial deregulation and the like, and through protecting them from efforts to try to push back.

    • Because they could.

    • And what we’ve seen in the last 30 years is a gradual erosion of the firewalls that protect our democracy from the inequalities that are occurring in the market. Money has come into politics much more.

    • So the whole idea of noblesse oblige and such and that the rich were supposed to have special responsibilities, that’s all gone, right? They have a God-given right to the lowest conceivable taxes.


      When you put anti-regulators in charge of the agencies who believe that regulation is bad and completely unnecessary and they destroy it, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that produces massive fraud at the most elite levels.

    • I want to see money out of government. I’m a very big proponent of campaign finance reform, of limiting the role of lobbyists, and limiting the role of corporate personhood

    • But how do you explain the fact that we’ve seen over this period where the rich have gotten richer the tax rates on the richest of the rich come dramatically down.

    • BILL MOYERS: How can this happen? How could Washington turn its back on the broad middle class to favor a relatively few at the top in a democracy?


      JACOB HACKER:  What has really changed is the organization of American politics, particularly the organizations that represent the deepest pocketed members of American society. What we’ve seen as an organizational revolution over the last 30 years that has meant that business, and Wall Street, and ideological conservative organizations that are pushing for free market policies have all become much more influential.

    • JACOB HACKER: When citizens are organized and when they press their claims forcefully, when there are reformist leaders within government and outside it who work on their behalf, then we do see reform. This is the story of the American democratic experiment of wave after wave of reform leading to a much broader franchise, to a much broader understanding of the American idea.


      In the mid-20th century we saw a period in which income gains were broadly distributed, in which middle class Americans had voice through labor unions, through civic organizations and through, ultimately, their government. We’ve seen an erosion of that world, but just because it’s lost ground doesn’t mean it can’t be saved. And so in writing this book we were hoping to sort of tell Americans that what was valuable in the past could be a part of our future.

    • BILL MOYERS: But if both political parties are indebted to the winners where do the losers find an army to join?

    • How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

    • You know, if you look to our northern neighbor, Canada, it had nothing like the same degree of banking crisis the United States did.

    • when you look at other affluent democracies that have also been exposed to these same kinds of pressures, who are actually more open — smaller economies are often more open to the global economy than the United States is — you don’t see anything like the run-up in inequality, especially this very concentrated high-end inequality, in most of these other countries that you see in the United States. Which to us, really, was a very strong clue that we need to understand why the American response to globalization, to technological change has been different than the response of most other wealthy democracies.

    • my family with two Master’s degrees is struggling

    • BILL BLACK:  What we have is recurrent, intensifying financial crises driven by elite fraud and now it’s done with almost absolute impunity.

    • And at the same time, when those risks have become apparent, there has been a studious effort on the part of political leaders to try to protect against government stepping in and regulating or changing the rules.

    • Within a few weeks after the legislation was passed, we all get a letter that says Congress and the President have given you this tax cut.

      • mine was around $300
    • these were all tax breaks that were worth a vast amount to the richest of Americans and worth very little to middle class Americans.

    • what is wrong with the priorities of our society that we cannot figure out how to translate our great wealth, our ingenuity, the hard work of our citizens, into a better standard of living that is shared broadly across the population?

    • BILL MOYERS You write, we have a government that’s been promoting inequality, and at the same time, as you just said, failing to counteract it. This has been going on, you write, 30 years or more. And here’s the key sentence: Step by step, and debate by debate, our public officials have rewritten the rules of the economy in ways that favor the few at the expense of the many.

    • “We wanted to know how our economy stopped working to provide prosperity and security for the broad middle class.”

    • JACOB HACKER: There was a poll done in 2010 that asked Americans whether the federal government had helped a great deal the following groups: large financial institutions and banks, 53 percent of Americans said they’d been helped a great deal.


      What about large corporations? 44 percent of Americans said they’d been helped a great deal. Then they asked, well, has the federal government helped the middle class a great deal? And do you want to guess what percent of Americans said that they’d been helped a great deal– the middle class had been helped a great deal? Two percent.


      BILL MOYERS: Two percent?

    • money matters much more in our politics, and where groups representing business and the wealthy are much more powerful than in the past.

    • BILL MOYERS: Protecting them?


      JACOB HACKER: Well, I think this is something that really needs to be understood. You know, these large shifts in our economy had been propelled in part by what government has done, say deregulating the market, the financial markets, to allow wealthy people to gamble with their own and other peoples’ money, and ways to put all of us at risk, but allow them to make huge fortunes.

    • JACOB HACKER:  We think the story that’s told about how the global economy has shifted clearly matters. But that it doesn’t get to the sort of really powerful role that government played in adapting to this new environment and in changing the well-being of people in the middle and at the top.

    • it was really designed to front-load the relatively modest benefits for the middle class, and to back-load the benefits for the wealthy.

    • Income inequality that statistics on income inequality now suggest that inequality is higher in the U.S. than it is in Egypt.

    • So, that top one percent saw its real incomes increase by over 250 percent between 1979 and 2006

    • 1979 to 2007, so all the increased household income over that period, around 40 percent of those gains went to the top one percent. And if you look at the bottom 90 percent they had less than that combined.

    • And we’re, we are deep believers in the ability of American democracy to reform itself, of the strength of our democratic institutions. But they’re in very serious disrepair right now. And we’ve seen in recent political fights a sort of paralysis and a broad loss of faith in government. And that sort of secession of the wealthy from our economic life that we’ve already started to see could be matched by a secession of them from our political life and a sort of loss of that broad democracy that was characteristic of mid-20th century. That’s the greatest fear that we have.

    • understand that inequality of income and wealth is part of a capitalist society, but it can’t overwhelm our democracy.

    • PAUL PIERSON: If you listen to many public officials over the over the last 20 or 30 years as they’ve started to recognize that inequality has grown, typically what they’ll say is, this is a result just of economic change. It’s a result of globalization changes in technology that have advantaged the educated at those with high skills at the expense of the uneducated.

    • those top 400 tax payers, they’ve seen their tax rates decline so much that it’s worth about $46 million for every one-

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About Robert Coss

I was made in America by God. I hope you will see the quality of that workmanship.
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